Midtown Modernist office tower designated

The Look building at 488 Madison Avenue. Image: LPC.

Mid-20th century Look Building’s design was influenced by European Modernism. On July 27, 2010, Landmarks designated the Look Building at 488 Madison Avenue in Midtown, Manhattan as an individual City landmark. The 23-story, asymmetrical building was one of the City’s first office towers to reflect the influence of European Modernism.

Emery Roth & Sons designed the Look Building and the Uris Brothers developers completed the structure in 1950. The building was named after one of its early tenants, Look! Magazine, and it features ribbon- like bands of windows and a series of setbacks faced with white brick. Emery Roth & Sons closely followed the 1916 zoning resolution’s setback regulations in order to maximize floor area.

The architects maintained offices in the building, as did Esquire Magazine and Pocket Books. Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates renovated the building in the late 1990s, replacing window frames and creating a new entrance portico. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea found the building intriguing because of how the 1916 zoning rules influenced the building’s “streamlined Modernist” design. Commissioner Joan Gerner noted that the building represented an important step in the development of Modernist architecture and foreshadowed the Lever House and the United Nations Secretariat Building. Commissioner Libby Ryan lamented the building’s lobby renovation and the loss of the original portico, but joined the other commissioners in voting to designate the building.

LPC: Look Building, 488 Madison Ave., Manhattan (LP-2376) (July 27, 2010).

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